Through a new partnership with MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, the Rutherford County Farmers’ Market now accepts Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, credit and debit cards.
“This partnership will provide low-income individuals with the opportunity to buy healthy food at the farmers’ market,” said Dr. Justin G. Gardner, MTSU assistant professor of agribusiness.
The University is helping with the EBT process as well as with promotional efforts for the University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University Extension-operated county market, located at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center on John R. Rice Boulevard in Murfreesboro.
The MTSU Student Farmers Market, which is now open Friday afternoons through mid-August, is operated on campus by the Plant and Soil Science Club and takes cash and local checks. Funds generated by the University’s market go to support the operations of the MTSU Farm. (Click here for more details on the MTSU Student Farmers Market.)
The new collaboration between the University and the county’s Farmers’ Market, called the “Grow Healthy Rutherford Initiative,” brings many features to encourage healthy eating and shopping locally for food.
In addition to adding a variety of payment forms to the Rutherford County Farmers’ Market, the “Grow Healthy Rutherford” project also includes cooking classes, a shuttle to and from the market from low-income areas near downtown Murfreesboro and education for farmers and consumers. MTSU students and staff also will study the impact of these efforts.
EBT cards are used to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits, formerly called food stamps. Since 2007, officials report a 90 percent increase in Rutherford County residents using EBT cards to buy food, reaching a total of 38,498 in September 2011.
More than 17,000 residents live in an area in central Murfreesboro known as a “food desert,” with low or limited access to full-sized grocery stores, Gardner said. A “food desert” can limit residents’ intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and other items in a healthy diet.
The area affecting Murfreesboro stretches from Memorial Boulevard east to Twin Oak Drive, bordered by Vine Street to the south and by DeJarnette Lane near the Murfreesboro Airport to the north.
For details on the Rutherford County Farmers’ Market’s operating hours and other information, visit www.localharvest.org/rutherford-county-farmers-market-M1425.
— Kristy Hardin (firstname.lastname@example.org)